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Working with staff

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How to support and manage staff during covid-19 and the key government schemes available to employers.

On this page you will find both practical tips for making sure staff can stay safe and well, along with an explanation of relevant government policies and financial support. It is aimed primarily at senior leaders in voluntary organisations who have responsibility for human resources and employee engagement but may be useful for any manager. 

Working from home 

  • Under the English national restrictions up to Wednesday 2 December, nobody must  leave or be outside of their home except where their place of work remains open and where they cannot work from home (including if their job involves working in other people’s homes). Read about the national restrictions on gov.uk
  • More widely, under the local covid alert system, the government recommends that people work from home where they can effectively do so. Learn more about the local covid alert system on gov.uk.  

Supporting staff to work from home

  • Employers have a legal duty of care to support the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff when working from home. This also includes making sure that there are reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.
  • It is good practice for your organisation to have a written record of your approach to home working and make sure this is applied consistently for all staff. You should build in flexibility to respond to individual circumstances such as caring responsibilities. You should seek to actively involve staff and any recognised trade union in developing your approach. 
  • Some organisations have a home working policy which was designed where a minority of staff worked at home occasionally. It is therefore advisable to consider whether to suspend the policy (especially if it is associated with contractual terms and conditions) or update the policy. 
  • Acas have developed advice and resources to help organisations set up and manage staff working from home.  Read Acas’ guidance on working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.   
  • The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development published a range of resources for employers to enable their staff to work from home or work more flexibly. They include a home working questionnaire to plan what preparations and next steps are needed. 
  • Employers should provide equipment which enables staff to work effectively from home. This could include allowing staff to borrow equipment from the office. If doing so, employers are responsible for the equipment and technology they give employees. You can follow guidance from Acas on providing equipment and technology including the duties of both employers and employees.
  • Where possible, provide flexibility to staff to work from home. This could include:
    • additional flexibility in working hours
    • relaxing ‘core hours’
    • coordinating cross-organisational times where staff are not expected to be available or in meetings
    • setting expectations of keeping in touch with team mates and managers - for example through a different pattern of team meetings. 
  • Zurich has issued guidance on considerations when working from home.  
  • Holding remote meetings can be difficult. CAST has developed a practical guide to remote meetings.  

Tax and benefits implications of working from home and supporting staff  

Supporting staff not working at home 

  • Where employees must attend their workplace, the employer should make sure that the risk of covid transmission is minimised. Learn more on our page on managing covid risks
  • Staff needing to attend their workplace can experience worries about how this may affect them and the people they live with or care for. The mental health charity Mind have issued guidance to help with understanding these feelings and tips for taking care and finding the right support. 
  • Staff in key worker roles, such as those working in health, care, emergency and education roles face a range of physical and mental health risks. Our Frontline offers round-the-clock one-to-one support, by call or text, from trained volunteers. You will also find a range of resources, tips and ideas to look after your mental health. 

Supporting staff wellbeing

Supporting staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable (‘shielding’) 

  • Certain groups of people are at higher risk of covid-19. There are two levels of higher risk: high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable) and moderate risk (clinically vulnerable). You can learn more on the NHS website
  • Under the English national restrictions up to Wednesday 2 December, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable are strongly advised to work from home. If they cannot work from home, they should not attend work during this period. If you cannot attend work for this reason, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit. For details see the Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 on.GOV.UK. 
  • For the period between 31 July and 5 November, staff who were clinically extremely vulnerable were not eligible for statutory sick pay on the basis of being advised to shield by the government. Employers can still check if a shielding note is valid for an employee for notes issued from 1 August 2020 to 4 October 2020 using the check a shielding note service.
  • If someone has a disability or a physical or mental health condition that makes it hard for them to do their job, they may be able to get help from the government’s Access to Work scheme. This might cover extra travel costs if you have been told to not use public transport, additional personal protective equipment or additional remote support services, such as video remote interpreting or British Sign Language interpreting. Full details are on the Access to Work site. 

Self-isolating due to covid-19 symptoms or exposure and sick pay

  • Staff with symptoms of covid-19 or who have received a positive covid-19 test result, should immediately self-isolate at home for at least 10 days from when the symptoms started. Anyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 days. 
  • Staff should stay at home for 14 days if:
    • someone they live with has symptoms or tested positive
    • someone in their support bubble has symptoms or tested positive
    • you have been told to by NHS ‘test and trace’ service.
  • If staff develop symptoms during this isolation period, they should restart a 10-day isolation period from the day they developed symptoms. See government guidance about households with possible or confirmed coronavirus symptoms.
  • It is a legal obligation on workers to notify their employer if they are required to self-isolate when they are due to work anywhere other than the place they are required to self-isolate. They must do this as soon as reasonably practicable and before they are next due to start work within the isolation period. The rules also apply to agency workers who must tell either their employer, their employment agency or their principle. Whoever is informed by the agency worker must pass the information onto the other two parties. Any worker who fails to do so will face a fine of at least £1,000.
  • Similarly, it is a legal obligation for employers who are aware of the requirement of a worker to self-isolate to not knowingly allow them to attend any place other than where the worker is required to self-isolate, for any purpose related to the worker's employment.  Any employer who fails to do so will face a fine of at least £1,000. It is advisable for employers to keep a record of the worker’s reported self- isolation records and dates they attend the workplace.
  • Employees who self-isolate are entitled to sick leave and statutory sick pay from the first day they are absent from work if:
    • they have coronavirus
    • they have coronavirus symptoms
    • someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
    • they have been advised to stay at home by a doctor because of underlying health conditions
    • they have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
    • they've been told to self-isolate by a government 'test and trace' service.
  • To learn more, Acas has issued guidance on sick pay for self-isolation during coronavirus
  • If you're an employer, you may be eligible to use the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme to claim back employees' coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Employers can learn more in HMRC guidance and they can check online if they are eligible
  • Croner, an NCVO trusted supplier, has an HR and employment law helpline available to all voluntary sector organisations, free of charge.  Call 0844 561 8133.
  • Self-isolating due to international travel 
  • It is a legal obligation on anyone who arrives in the UK from a ‘non-exempt country or territory’ to self-isolate for a 14 day period starting from the day after they leave the ‘non-exempt country or territory’. Learn more in the guidance How to self-isolate when you travel to the UK. 
  • A non-exempt country or territory is any country or territory that is not on the travel corridors list.
  • Employees are not entitled to statutory sick pay if they're self-isolating after returning from holiday or business travel and they cannot work from home.
  • Employers have discretion to grant unpaid leave for emergency travel. For details on this and other employment rights issues see guidance for workers and employers on self-isolating after returning to the UK on gov.uk 

Meeting your equality duties as an employer

Coronavirus job retention scheme (furloughing)

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme gives employers access to support from HMRC to continue paying wages and avoid laying off staff or making them redundant due to the covid-19 pandemic. The scheme was introduced in March 2020 and was due to end on 31 October 2020. However, it has now been extended until March 2021. 
  • The government has developed guidance explaining the scheme.
  • As of the 10 June 2020, employers can no longer furlough employees for the first time.  
  • An employee can only be furloughed after 30 June if they have previously been furloughed prior to 10 June.  
  • Part-time furloughing will begin on 1 July.  Employers can decide on the split of hours. This will only apply to employees furloughed for the first time on or before 10 June 2020.  
  • Employers will no longer be able to reclaim employers' NI or pension contributions through the CJRS for employees on furlough after 1 August.   
  • From 1 September, the CJRS will only reimburse 70% of salary (to a cap of £2,190 per month). Employers will be required to top-up to 80% (or more if the employer has agreed to a higher percentage).  
  • From 1 October, the CJRS will reimburse 60% of salary (to a cap of £1,875 per month). Employers will be required to top-up to 80% (or more if the employer has agreed to a higher percentage). 
  • From 1 November, the CJRS will reimburse 80% of salary (to a cap of £2,500 per month). Employers do not need to have used the CJRS previously to access the extended scheme. Employers can claim for employees who were employed and on their PAYE payroll on 30 October 2020.
  • For a detailed overview of what furloughing means for those who want to volunteer or take on volunteers, please read our blog on furloughing and volunteering
  • If only some employees are furloughed, consideration should be given to capacity and demand. You must be careful not to discriminate and to make furloughing decisions based on roles, not on personal characteristics. It may be appropriate to use a similar selection process as in a redundancy situation. 
  • Public sector organisations and organisations receiving public funding specifically for salary costs are expected to continue to use that funding for salary costs rather than furloughing staff.  
  • Get the last update on the CJRS from HR Services Partnership, one of our Trusted Suppliers.  

Annual leave and furlough

  • Employees on furlough continue to build up:
    • statutory holiday entitlements 
    • additional holiday provided under their employment contract.
  • While on furlough employees can take holiday without disrupting the terms of their furlough. For example, if an employee is on furlough for four weeks and takes five days holiday during that furlough period, the start and end dates of that furlough period remain the same and will not be extended by five days. 
  • Employees on furlough can request holiday through the usual channels at work. 
  • Workers on furlough must get their usual pay in full, for any holiday they take while on furlough.
  • Standard notice requirements still apply if:
    • requesting an employee to take holiday
    • refusing a request for holiday. 
  • If requiring an employee to take holiday during furlough, consider any restrictions the employee is under. For example, social-distancing or self-isolation would prevent them from enjoying leisure time - a fundamental purpose of holiday. 
  • As of 27 March, the law changed regarding carrying over annual leave into the next calendar year.   
  • Employees can now carry annual leave forward into the next two years.  This is the case where the impact of covid-19 meant it was not ‘reasonably practicable’ to take leave in that year. To check what can be considered ‘reasonably practicable,’ refer to the government guidance
  • For more information on holiday entitlement and pay during covid-19, refer to the government guidance.

The Job Support Scheme 

  • The Government intended to replace the Coronavirus job retention scheme (furloughing) at the start of November with the Job Support Scheme. This scheme gives less financial support to employers. 
  • The scheme has now been postponed until at least 31 March 2021. 
  • Employers should continue to check for revised details of the postponed Job Support Scheme.

 

 

Page last edited Nov 26, 2020

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